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A secret seal? No, just an Indiana county's original logo

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — While it might look like some sort of secret society emblem, it is actually a piece of Vigo County history.

Trying to spark more discussion of the county’s past, Commissioner Brendan Kearns is drawing attention to the county’s original logo, even sporting it on several golf-style shirts he wears.

At first, “it doesn’t make sense when you look at it,” Kearns said. “It looks like an eye nestled in a strange looking V, but the eye is a large “C” and with a small “O” for the word county and the V for Vigo,” Kearns said.

“If you look at the (stone) fence around the lawn of the courthouse, you will see this logo and the logo is inlaid on the courthouse rotunda floor. It does have a sinister look to it, almost like a secret society-type look,” Kearns said.

“I would love to have people made aware of it, as it was done in the 1800s and is something that we have forgotten about.”

And, soon, some other history in the courthouse may be more visible. Interior lights are being used to display a bell near the top of the courthouse.

“It is a project we are working on. We have done several test runs, but the goal is for people to see the bell at night. We have some issues as half of the windows are louvered, so the bell’s sound can get out,” Kearns said.

“We have to figure out how to get rid of the louvers and improve the windows so people can see the bell and still hear the bell outside.

“You can see the bell when in mid-town, a little east of the courthouse and anywhere along U.S. 41, so coming over the overpass you will be able to see the bell light up, which will be so awesome,” Kearns said.

However, the bell will not be visible from the south due to an internal ladder.

“It is something we are trying to do to show off our courthouse and this amazing bell with such a rich history,” Kearns said.

On Dec. 9, 1834, about five months after his visit to Terre Haute, Francis Vigo penned a will bequeathing $500 to help acquire a bell for the Vigo County Courthouse.

Vigo died March 22, 1836. The two-ton bell was made in 1887 at a cost of $2,500 and remains in the upper dome of the courthouse, which is not open to the public. Construction on the courthouse began in 1884, and it was dedicated in 1888.

On the bell: An inscription on the side of a bell in the Vigo County Courthouse recalls Francis Vigo, for whom the county was named.Tribune-Star/Howard Greninger

The bell reads, “By his will $500 of the cost of this bell were presented by Francis Vigo, Vigo County, IND. A.D. 1887.”

Also in the works, illuminating the face of large clocks atop the courthouse in different colors and illumination of the courthouse’s dome.

“The lights were 110 volt and were pretty expensive to run all the time, and we had to replace the bulbs, so we found 12 volt LED strip lights and we can change colors with it,” said Tommy Roberts, assistant courthouse maintenance supervisor, who suggested the change.

“We can change the colors with a remote control,” Roberts said. “We are also working to light the outside of the dome, and can get any colors we want as well. There will be eight lights facing toward the dome so we can do breast cancer awareness week and make it appear all pink. Or at Christmas time (we can) make it a different color.”

Cost for the new lights is about $2,300, but that will be offset by savings in long-term in electrical costs and replacement of bulbs and ballasts, the county commissioner said.

Oddly enough, Kearns is actually embodied in a depiction of courthouse history himself.

Artist Bill Wolfe used faces of locals while painting murals now located on the first floor of the courthouse rotunda. Kearns’ likeness appears in one of the murals. In the Wolfe mural, Kearns is a priest leading a horse-drawn wagon through high water.

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